But our High Priest has been given a ministry that is far superior to the ministry of those who serve under the old laws, for he is the one who guarantees for us a better covenant with God, based on better promises. - Vs 6 (NLT)
A more excellent High Priest. A superior ministry. A better covenant based on better promises. Chapter 8 seems to sum up everything from the previous 7 chapters. In fact, Paul says, "Here is the main point: Our High Priest sat down in the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand" (Vs 1 - NLT). Jesus, our High Priest, sits at the right hand of God, a place of power, honor, and authority. He has complete access to God the Father. He ministers in the true sanctuary, not a temporary, man-made, representation of what is to come. It is not "a copy and shadow of the heavenly things" (Vs 5), but the real thing. He is the real High Priest who has real authority and who ministers in the real sanctuary in the very presence of God Himself.
And as our High Priest, Jesus guarantees us a better covenant. A new covenant. Why? Because the old covenant had been broken. The people of Israel had failed to keep their end of the covenant. They had disobeyed and rebelled time after time. They could not and did not keep the laws that were tied to the Mosaic covenant. They did not hold up their end of the agreement. Paul backs this up with a quote from the prophet Jeremiah. He says that this is going to be a completely, radically new covenant, "not like the covenant which I made with their fathers" (Vs 9). The blessings of the old covenant were conditioned on Israel's obedience to the law that God gave with the covenant. Because they "did not continue in" the covenant, God "did not care for them" (Vs 9). In other words, their lack of obedience led to curses, not blessing. God could not bless them because of their disobedience.
But God made a new covenant with Israel.
But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds so they will understand them, and I will write them on their hearts so they will obey them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. - Vs 10
The old covenant was based on externals. It was external rules and regulations that required complete obedience. And obedience was primarily out of fear of punishment. The new covenant is internal. Obedience will be inwardly motivated and generated. It will come from the heart and will be empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And there will be a knowledge of God unlike anything they have ever experienced before.
And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their family, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me. - Vs 11 (NLT)
Paul is telling his Jewish readers news that should be extremely exciting to them. The old covenant, based on rules and ritual, has been replaced with a new and better covenant. One that is based on the faithfulness and mercy of God alone. It is the new covenant based on the blood of Jesus Christ (Luke 22:20). It is a new covenant "not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old way ends in death; in the new way, the Holy Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:6). It is a new covenant based on mercy and forgiveness of sin. It is an unconditional covenant, that requires nothing of me because I have nothing to give. It has been written by God, ratified by God, and made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son. It's new. Its better. It's available here and now. Are you living in it and under it? Or are you still trying to keep a set of rules, somehow trying to earn favor with God? Do you still believe that your salvation or better yet, your sanctification, is somehow up to you? That is the old way. You are living according to the old covenant based on works, human effort, and self-righteousness. We live under the new covenant. We have the Spirit within us who has given us a new heart and a new desire to obey because we are loved, not to try to earn God's love. The new covenant is better. So let's live in it.
Father, thank You for the reality of the new covenant. I do not have to live under the law. I don't have to try to keep a set of impossible standards in some attempt to appease or please you. I am not doomed to failure and defeat. Because of Your Son's death and resurrection, I am a new creature with a new nature, and a new capacity to obey and worship and know God that I could never have manufactured on my own. Help me to live according to the new covenant and not the old. Amen